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October 31, 2007

Fetuses use parasite trick to avoid attack

Parasitic trick helps fetus avoid attack - sex - 03 November 2007 - New Scientist

IF YOU think comparing a fetus to a parasite is unkind, think again. The puzzle as to why a pregnant woman's immune system doesn't attack the fetus and placenta - both of which contain genetic material from the father - may finally have been cracked.

It seems the placenta produces hitherto unknown hormones containing the same molecule some parasitic worms use to avoid detection by the immune system. As well as helping the fetus avoid immune attack, the hormones may also summon extra blood and nutrients to the aid of an undernourished fetus.

The discovery of this possible chemical control system could herald new ways to prevent recurrent miscarriages and pre-eclampsia, a condition which can lead to convulsions, coma and death in pregnant women. It also sheds some light on why rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease, eases when women become pregnant.

October 30, 2007

Aids strain traced back to Haiti, 1966

BBC NEWS | Health | Key Aids strain 'came from Haiti'

The team examined archived blood samples from five early Aids patients - all of them Haitian immigrants to the United States - and analysed genetic sequences from another 117 Aids patients from around the world.

With this data, they recreated a family tree for the virus, which they believe shows conclusively that the strain came to the US via Haiti - probably via a single person - in around 1969.

Michael Worobey of the University of Arizona in Tucson is one of the study's authors. He says the new research suggests HIV first arrived in Haiti in the mid-1960s - probably from Africa where HIV is thought to have originated - before making its crossing into the US.

"By 1966 the virus first starts spreading in Haiti," he told the BBC.

410 year-old clam discovered

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Ming the clam is 'oldest animal'

A clam dredged up off the coast of Iceland is thought to have been the longest-lived animal discovered.

Scientists said the mollusc, an ocean quahog clam, was aged between 405 and 410 years and could offer insights into the secrets of longevity.

Researchers from Bangor University in north Wales said they calculated its age by counting rings on its shell.

October 29, 2007

Scientists find cure for frog apocalypse

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Frog killer fungus 'breakthrough'

New Zealand scientists have found what appears to be a cure for the disease that is responsible for wiping out many of the world's frog populations.

Chloramphenicol, currently used as an eye ointment for humans, may be a lifesaver for the amphibians, they say.

The researchers found frogs bathed in the solution became resistant to the killer disease, chytridiomycosis.

October 28, 2007

Feminists have more fun, better relationships

Feminists Have More Fun | LiveScience

Feminism boosts sexual satisfaction for both men and women, a new study suggests.

Busting stereotypes that peg feminists as men-haters, a new study shows that having a feminist partner is linked with healthier, more romantic heterosexual relationships.

The study, published online this week in the journal Sex Roles, relied on surveys of both college students and older adults, finding that women with egalitarian attitudes do find mates and men do find them attractive. In fact, results reveal they are having a good time, maybe a better time than the non-feminists.

Both men and women are prone to holding negative views of feminists, the authors say. Along with the sexually unattractive stereotype, some women also view feminism as a movement for victims, or for women who aren't competent enough to achieve success on their own merit, according to the Rutgers University researchers.

October 24, 2007

Moonlight triggers coral orgies

The synchronising secret to corals' moonlit orgy - life - 27 October 2007 - New Scientist

IT IS an almost poetic act of nature. Each year, under the same late-spring full moon, hundreds of coral species simultaneously spawn into the water.

Now reef biologists have figured out how they might do it. Coral lack the ocelli, or eyespots, that most simple animals use to sense light, but Oren Levy at the University of Queensland in St Lucia, Australia, and his colleagues have found that at least one species involved possesses photoreceptor proteins that respond to moonlight.

His team took tissue samples of the coral Acropora millepora four times each day during the full and new moon. They found that one gene, cry2, which codes for a light-sensitive cryptochrome protein, became significantly more active at midnight during the full moon, suggesting that it enables the coral to synchronise its spawning cycle